When Mental Health Month was launched in 1949, there were lots of things people kept hushed up. Now there’s little social shame attached to divorce, cancer, even alcohol dependence. The gay rights movement has gained huge strides. What about serious mental health conditions?
Conversations about the importance of mental health treatment and ending stigma are taking place at the highest levels. In the U.S., both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama champion efforts to increase support for people living with mental disorders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a personal understanding of the issues: His famous mother, Margaret Trudeau, famously has bipolar.
Down in the trenches, however, fears about discrimination—in the workplace, socially, even within our own families—remain very real. At the same time, one of the strongest weapons in the anti-stigma arsenal is showing that anyone could be living with a mental health challenge: the barista at your favorite coffee shop, the neighbor you wave to, your favorite cousin.
That’s why Mental Health America, the organization behind Mental Health Month, has made “Life With a Mental Illness” the theme for 2016. MHA is asking individuals to share their experiences on social media, whether in words, pictures or video, and tag their posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike.
For one thing, this will help “de-mythify” what it’s like to have bipolar or another psychiatric condition. For another, it will let people who are struggling in silence know they’re not alone, and perhaps even help them understand what they’re going through.